Sometimes the tricky parenting battles sneak in unexpectedly. Yesterday they loved sandwiches, today sandwiches are disgusting. Last week they jumped in the pool and today they are scared to death of it. Yesterday they were patient and cheerful and today, well, they forgot everything they knew.
But other times we can see the struggle approaching from a mile away, 5 miles even. Monday was a five mile kind of day.
We have taken to the slime craze like most every family this summer, but this time there wasn’t enough to go around. The oldest girl and her visiting cousin made some slime at a weekend event. Monday morning I had 5 kids, now home from their various weekend engagements, but only two of them had a supply of slime.
The math wasn’t in my favor.
I eyed the two little packages of brightly colored goo waiting on the counter while the kids were still asleep. Those packages may as well have been ticking time bombs, ready to explode on my Monday morning.
But I had a backup plan. I was loaded with an arsenal of slime making supplies. The ingredients were all there. We would make more slime today. There would be peace.
The kids began waking slowly and before I even noticed, they were at the counter doing whatever it is they do with slime.
Can we make some slime, mom? One of the slime-less children asked.
Of course! Right after breakfast we’ll make more slime, I replied, mentally congratulating my collision of wisdom and foresight and preparedness. These things rarely collide. I’m often coming up short. I don’t wear contacts so why would I have contact solution (key ingredient for you non-slime making people)? But this time I was on it. I was already winning Monday!
The oldest girl was sharing her slime with the oldest boy when the 5 year old woke up. He, of course, wanted slime too. I offered him prepared response.
I got you covered; soon, there will be slime!
Except this time it didn’t go over so well. He wanted his slime now, not after breakfast.
I reassured him that breakfast would be soon, but he didn’t care much for my reassurance. He didn’t want reassurance; he wanted slime.
The oldest girl could see the storm brewing and generously offered to share a bit of her own slime for the time being.
But the 5 year old, not to be outsmarted, was quick to notice that this offering was lacking. He didn’t want a small amount of slime, a portion that appeared to be less than what the others had. He wanted lots of slime and he preferred to have it immediately.
Ten seconds ago I was basking in my awesomeness at motherhood. I was patting myself on the back for preparedness and foresight. I was impressed by my own wisdom and moments later I was kind of horrified by this 5 year old I birthed.
Determined he simple didn’t understand the situation, I tried to explain the facts more clearly.
We’re all getting slime, buddy! We’re going to have breakfast and then we’ll all make slime. In the meantime, your sister is sharing hers. See? It’s good news!
But he was bent on discontentedness. He understood the facts quite clearly. The reality was, in this moment he clearly did not have what he wanted, what he felt he deserved, what he thought was fair and good and best.
I’m not exactly new to this parenting gig; I’ve stepped my way through the quick sand of childhood fits a time or two. You know, the ones that seem to engulf the child and the mama until you’re both just angry and exasperated.
We were teetering right there, patience running thin as I realized no amount of rational logic was going to appease this child.
I was slightly appalled, honestly. The kid would get slime soon. Good slime, fresh slime, in any color he chose, but he couldn’t get over what others had. He couldn’t quiet the siren of what he perceived as his own lack. As much as I tried to explain that something good was ahead, that I had a plan and had his good in mind, he couldn’t trust me there.
Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8
Somehow in that very moment, as He so often does, God brought these tiny reminders to mind.
I saw the plans I had and the waiting I didn’t understand.
I remembered the bitterness of my own heart when others became pregnant so easily while I languished.
I remembered questioning whether or not He had anything but grief for me.
I saw the dreams that seemed to go up in flames. The things I wished so badly would turn out differently. The time I wondered if He even saw me here.
And I remembered how He has taken each one of those aches and turned them into something more than I could ever imagine, shaping my heart, giving me courage, teaching me to trust, while I so often have begged for slime. Now.
The greatest river of grace God has given me in motherhood has been in showing me how very much like these kids I am. Not just at 5, but at 37. I still struggle with selfishness and impatience, with envy and doubt. I just choose more acceptable objects of my affection, rather than slime.
But the wandering of our hearts is much the same.
So I will keep teaching and training and pouring out grace, just as I have received, even as I awkwardly keep learning these lessons myself. Linking arms with these kids of mine, leading them gently right in the midst of their messiness, might be the greatest lessons He is teaching me in this season.
And He is faithful to keep teaching us all, gracefully.